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Nurse fatigue can lead to serious medical errors

Mar 28, 2013 Brown Moore Medical Malpractice

Nurse fatigue can wreak havoc on patient safety in North Carolina and a new survey found that many nurses suffer from fatigue and have an increased risk of making a medical mistake.

The survey found that two-thirds of nurses in U.S. hospitals reported that they almost made a fatigue-related error and one-fourth of nurses said that they had made an error because they were fatigued, according to a survey by Kronos Incorporated. Their survey found that in addition to the increased risk of medical errors by nurses, fatigue can also impact a hospital’s costs and patient and employee satisfaction.

The survey found that 98 percent of nurses surveyed said they felt tired at the beginning of their work shift and 92 percent said they felt tired while driving home after their shift. In addition, 54 percent of those surveyed said that they thought they had too heavy of a workload with too many patients to take care of.

The main reason why many nurses may feel fatigued at work could be because many hospitals don’t require rest breaks for their staff and they may not keep track of how often a nurse works an extended 12-hour shift. The survey found that 56 percent of nurses said that their hospital does not have required rest periods and 65 percent said their hospital did not have any policies for how often a person can work an extended shift.

Nurse fatigue is often caused by understaffing at hospitals and forcing nurses to work longer shifts even if they just worked a 12-hour shift the day before. When hospitals are understaffed, they rely on fewer nurses to handle more patients and this not only causes fatigue and burnout in nurses but it can lead to serious or fatal medical errors.

Patients should be aware of the risks associated with fatigued medical staff. Patients and their families who believe they have suffered due to an error made by fatigued hospital staff members should consult a medical malpractice attorney to discuss their rights and what action can be taken against the negligent party.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, “Survey: Nurse understaffing, fatigue threatens patient safety,” Julie Bird, March 21, 2013